By John Schappi
"Less is more" is my mantra for almost everything, and it is particularly relevant to the prescribed medications and supplements I take. While the following list may actually seem short to many, here is a list of what I take now.
My Prescribed Medications
This is the medication most often prescribed for those of us with Parkinson's disease (PD). Sinemet is the brand name, and it was approved by the FDA in 1988.
The body converts the active ingredient levodopa into dopamine, the neurotransmitter that PD depletes. Carbidopa helps the levodopa pass the blood-brain barrier, enhancing the medication’s effectiveness.
After 40 years of clinical experience, levodopa remains the gold-standard treatment for Parkinson's, but this miracle drug is not perfect. It brings unwelcome side effects, some of which can be serious. Patients typically find that the drug wears off toward the end of each regular dosing cycle.
As the PD progresses, doctors usually prescribe increased dosages. I started with two pills three times a day. Now, nearly seven years into my own experience with PD, I take two pills seven or eight times a day. My neurologist told me he will not increase this daily dosage.
I had been using regular carbidopa-levodopa, but last year I switched to the extended-release form because it seemed to moderate the blood pressure spikes that plagued me when I took the over-the-counter supplement 5-HTP in addition to my regular PD medication. I stopped using 5-HTP a month ago, so now I will try switching from the extended-release variety back to the regular version of carbidopa-levodopa to see which version works best for me.
In a future post about the major meds I no longer take, I'll describe the controversy that developed around my use of 5-HTP.
- Fluticasone propionate
I use this nasal spray every morning (more often if necessary) to deal with frequent runny nose incidents. You may be more familiar with the brand name of this corticosteroid, Flonase. It was originally released as a prescription medication and approved by the FDA in 1994, but in 2015, the spray became available without a prescription. This medicine is extremely helpful for people who suffer from allergies and hay fever.
- Vitamin D
Several years ago, my former general practitioner recommended I take 2000mg of vitamin D every day. I take this supplement at night.
This compound is the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric. This heavily studied botanical yields beneficial effects confirmed by nearly 5,000 peer-reviewed studies. The scientific evidence shows that curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties that help with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, MS, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and other conditions. I have written countless posts about this supplement. Just put "curcumin" in the search box above and you will find a multitude of links to all the earlier comments.
Curcumin is not a cure for PD, but studies show its potential to slow down the disease’s progression. I can’t prove that curcumin has played a role in the slow progress of my own condition. Nonetheless, I have a gut feeling that it has.
Because so much of the compound is absorbed in the intestines, curcumin’s big problem is its limited bioavailabilty or the fraction of the dosage of the unchanged drug that actually makes it into the bloodstream. (For example, medications administered intravenously are by definition 100% bioavailable.) Researchers have found that adding other ingredients like black pepper extract measurably increases curcumin’s bioavailability.
I try to keep up with the research to help me figure out which brand of curcumin to buy. Currently, I'm taking 500mg of Doctor's Best Curcumin.
That's it. Two prescribed medicines and two supplements are the only pills I take regularly.